PROVO Brigham Young University President Cecil Samuelson asked students Tuesday to re-examine their personal integrity and stressed adherence to the school's honor code during his first address of the new school year.
Samuelson told the Deseret Morning News after the first fall semester devotional that his remarks were planned prior to last month's allegation that three or more BYU football players raped a 17-year-old girl in an off-campus apartment. The speech was only peripherally applicable to the police investigation and the university's own honor code review of the student-athletes.
"I've been working on these thoughts for a long, long time," he said. "I would have been explicit about that particular thing if that's what I meant to discuss."
However, Samuelson vigorously underscored his stand and that taken by the university's board of trustees, who are all leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"At BYU, we believe in the honor code," Samuelson told nearly 7,000 students, faculty and staff at the Marriott Center. "We preach, teach it, and we must practice it with soundness and completeness."
The devotional also was broadcast live on KBYU television and radio.
The president did make what appeared to be one superficial reference to the investigation.
"So few of you really misbehave in significant ways, and yet it is still newsworthy when one of our students stubs his or her toe," Samuelson said.
Later, as he set up a list of integrity issues "more common in our university community," he said: "While less dramatic and superficially less serious than the felonies which fill the news media, they do give me concern and I hope they do you as well."
His list of concerns included plagiarism, cheating, rsum padding, illegal downloading of online music and giving false information. He also mentioned stealing.
"Some of our community who would never think of stealing a roommate's watch or wallet occasionally find it convenient to leave phone bills, unpaid rent or other obligations for their associates to pay."
Samuelson last spoke at a devotional in January, when he strongly emphasized the school's dress and grooming standards, which made his list again Tuesday.
". . . I believe adherence to the honor code, including the provisions related to dress and grooming, is a matter of integrity," he said. "Simply put, to sign your name in support of one standard and then to live another is another example of lying or promise-breaking."
BYU students agree to live by the honor code when they apply for admission and annually sign a statement that they will follow the guidelines. The code proscribes premarital and extramarital sex and the use of coffee, alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Following BYU tradition, Samuelson's wife, Sharon, also spoke. She told students that as a girl she was dismayed by her last name because few could correctly pronounce Giauque as "Juke."
Her comments dovetailed with her husband's as she told of the pride she felt when she learned more about her ancestors, and asked the students to protect their "good names."
"To have an unspotted name and reputation is of greater value than all the wealth one could encompass in a lifetime," she said.
In his talk, Samuelson encouraged students to see the honor code as something more than a set of rules."It is often portrayed by the media and others as a set of rules," he said. "While it does contain specifics with respect to honesty, appearance and general conduct, it is really much more. It is an attitude. It is a personal commitment to live life in congruence with Gospel principles. It is our recognition of the importance of others in our university circle and the respect we have for them and their sensibilities, as well as for their rights and property."
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